The movie awards season is kicking off, as Hollywood celebrates itself for the next couple of months. To break up that effusive monotony, people like me look in the other direction. There was plenty of garbage released into theaters in 2018, so recognizing those misfires is always a lark.
The main challenge in drawing up a “Worst Of” list is the varying metrics that can be used. Bad box office, low quality, critical drubbing, and money lost by studios are all valid means of determining what makes up a bad film. Can a laughably bad comedy be measured against a failed action epic? Is a mentally inept robbery thriller as bad as a sci-fi enterprise that lost more money than a third-world nation’s gross domestic product?
Art can be subjective to viewers. So I have listed these 25 worst films of last year alphabetically. This way readers can assess, then grade as they see fit. But be assured, this tabulation is promised to deliver badness. As always, govern yourself accordingly.
Paramount dumped this misbegotten Johnny Knoxville fictional stunt farce in the summer with barely a promotional notice. Debuting in ninth place, it landed in the top-25 of worst wide openings ever, plummeted 60 percent from that depth the next weekend, and then disappeared from theaters entirely in just two weeks.
Natalie Portman starred in the sci-fi horror that was well-received by critics, but by few others. Audiences graded this film with low marks, and the modest release was trampled by “Black Panther” dominating theaters in February.
‘A Wrinkle in Time’
It may seem strange to tab a $100 million-grossing film a “failure,” but the hype, the budget, the cast, and the Disney label meant it should have performed far better. It was likely a major money loser for the studio.
Director Dean Devlin follows up his deliriously bad “Geostorm” with this ignored thriller. It debuted in tenth place, with a meager $1.7 million weekend, standing as the sixth-worst wide-release opening for a film in all time. Pulled after just three weeks, its total gross was less than $3.5 million.
‘Bad Times at the El Royale’
Stylishly shot and with a star-loaded cast, this was bypassed by most during a busy October frame. It barely managed to earn back half of its shooting budget.
An unneeded reboot of the Charles Bronson franchise from the 1970s, Bruce Willis impressed few in this violent vigilante effort. Director Eli Roth brought the exploitation, but not the quality.
‘The Darkest Minds’
Fox had dreams of launching a franchise with this title, but few studios have had success duplicating the young adult dystopian success of “The Hunger Games.” Premiering in a dour eighth place, it thudded with a $5.8 million start, the 11th-worst opening for a movie on 3,000-plus screens.
Aardman Studios (“Wallace and Gromit,” “Chicken Run”) worked with Sony for this, but their caveman-based story was clubbed to death, opening the same weekend as the year’s No. 1 film, “Black Panther.” By the end, the claymation effort only garnered $8 million in total after a 2,500-screen release.
A true contender for Worst Of The Year. After languishing in development for years with numerous producers, directors, and stars attached, John Travolta took the lead. The end result was so bad Lionsgate sold the film back to the producers—two weeks before its release last Christmas!
It eventually was picked up by the foundering MoviePass company, the entity that has subscriptions for theater tickets. In total it only drew $4.2 million, and 40 percent of that number came from non-paying MoviePass customers.
‘The Happytime Murders’
Melissa McCarthy had a Sandra Bullock-like year. She is being touted for acting awards for the drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” but she also starred in this Razzie Award-level comedy about vulgar puppets. The one-note film was made by Jim Henson’s adult division of the Muppets and directed by his son. The August release may not have made back half of its shooting budget.
‘Holmes and Watson’
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly teamed once again for this comedic retelling of the famed detective. Opening on Christmas Day, it should have delivered some business, but they are still hunting for attention. Critics have savaged it, bestowing a lowly 9 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences equally reviled it, giving it a CinemaScore of “D-.”
Another stylish thriller filled with stars that went completely ignored by the masses. Jodi Foster starred as a nurse in a hospital for criminals. The film had high production value but low attention to the script. It opened with little pulse at $3.2 million, plunged almost 70 percent the next week, and could not even reach $7 million by the end.
A word of warning; Seeing Gerard Butler in October is a bad sign. After last year’s aforementioned “Geostorm,” this time he starred in a submarine thriller that sank instantly. The $40 million budgeted action piece hit bottom at $15.7 million by the end of its voyage.
Lodging in as a classic in the bad-film fan base, this one never had a chance. Opening in ninth place with a listless $3 million, it only managed to steal $6 million in March. A highly recommended misfire for lovers of sewer cinema.
Another young adult dystopian future tale that flamed out, this one written by Peter Jackson. The marketing did not convey its story well enough, and the concept of a city that is on wheels and can travel around was even more distancing. Costing over $100 million, it opened with only $7.5 million, the 27th worst debut on 3,000-plus screens. This is a costly mistake for Universal.
‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’
Disney spent heavily on this holiday release and it became coal in the studio’s stocking. While shooting it for $120 million, it was bypassed on a busy slate and drew in only $55 million. While doing better overseas, it will be a loser for the House of Mouse.
Call it the female version of “Death Wish,” this one starring Jennifer Garner. A mother avenges the death of her kids and husband—five years following their deaths. The story was risible, and the business was very light.
Fox has continuously tried to reinvigorate this franchise, and the results have been unimpressive. Even as it opened in the top position, it was a weak debut for an expensive action film, making for the worst live-action debut showing on 4,000-plus screens.
Jennifer Lawrence tried to propel this spy thriller that became a convoluted adaptation of a trilogy of spy novels. The $46 million result of a $70 million budget means there is little hope of seeing the rest of the series being made.
One of the biggest financial busts of the year. This attempt to contemporize the classic character starring Taron Egerton (“The Kingsmen”) and Jamie Foxx was going to be a major holiday release for Lionsgate. It opened on Thanksgiving weekend and could not draw $15 million. The $100 million-budgeted film also spent hefty on marketing, and to date has not even grossed $75 million worldwide.
Will Arnett looked embarrassed in this supposed family comedy with humans and talking dogs. There was a police procedural plot set at dog shows that kids and adults failed to adopt. Despite being a summer release, it could barely manage $17 million.
Dwayne Johnson is a global superstar, so you need to quantify his failures. For instance, “Rampage” from this spring was a laughable mess in that made it to $100 million in the states, but earned three times more in foreign territories. This film was slated for a summer blockbuster run, but the ripoff of “Die Hard” was beaten on its opening weekend by “Hotel Transylvania 3,” and it was a disappointment in finishing with $68 million. Globally, it took in another $265 million, so it may end up making some money for Universal.
‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’
Strange as it is to state, the 9th most successful film of the year that made more than $200 million is a disappointment. This has to be measured in Star Wars terms. Disney hoped for major performances from this as a launching pad for future films based on individual characters from the Star Wars universe. It had a softer than expected debut, fell sharply in its second week, and by week four lost more than 1,100 screens.
Between the budget and marketing it is estimated to have cost Disney at least $400 million, meaning a return of $750-800 million was needed for profitability. By the end, the final worldwide total was $393 million. That is a massive loss.
Warner Brothers attempted to reboot this franchise once led by Angelina Jolie. The relative unknown Alicia Vikander was not enough to draw a new generation of audiences in North America, with less than $60 million earned. Foreign markets responded, however, with another $200 million made globally.
‘Welcome to Marwen’
This Christmas release starring Steve Carell was about a man recovering from trauma by creating his own village. Once looked at as an awards season hopeful, the trailers with animated dolls in many scenes grew into more of a mockable offering. It debuted in ninth place, with barely over $2 million.